Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Dinner and Dialogue: An Interview with Dana Marie Roquemore

Dana snaps a photo of her Dinner Party guests. Photos by Tina Craig.
"I always joked around that if I could throw dinner parties for a living, that’s what I would be doing." With a love of food and an even greater love for connecting people, Dana Marie Roquemore hosts one of Orlando's most recent home-grown success stories, The Dinner Party Project.

Yearning for more than small talk, Dana devised a simple but dynamic way to connect people. "I would see people out a lot, but I thought, 'I don't know them that well. I don't know their stories or where they grew up or much of anything.' I also know that a lot of people don't know each other." So, she gathered a list of names, put them in a hat, and pulled seven at random to join her for drinks and dinner in her home. And so, the Dinner Party Project was born.

Today, the process remains the same, but her reach has exploded. Dana and her team—now sometimes including a guest host and a guest chef—bring to life about 10 dinners a month. The menu includes a welcome cocktail and hors d'oeuvre, a main course, and dessert. The host also prepares a few questions to move the conversation along. These questions are often meant to catch guests off guard, and before long people are talking about things they never imagined they would share with strangers, from heartfelt personal triumphs to laugh-'til-you-cry moments we'd rather forget but tell anyway. 

Why has it been so successful? "All the new people! They give life to this thing. No two dinners are exactly the same because each time you come, you sit down with seven different people, probably in a different location, with a different chef, and probably a different host." The mix of people at these private dinners is often surprising: Your table might include a marketing student who recently arrived in Orlando, a well-known local developer, a doctor who also plays in a band, a yoga instructor, or the owner of a major league sports team.  

Pre-DPP, Dana's ventures included Other Peoples Property and its much-loved signature event, the OPP Swap & Shop. While Stylist-turned-Dinner-Party-Hostess might not be the most common job title, the worlds of style and entertainment have many similarities. "I love aesthetics," says Dana. "I love creating a vision and executing it. I love gathering different friends and talented people and doing something new and beautiful."

No matter what the venture, her top priority is making connections with people and watching them engage with her projects. A close second priority is managing the execution of her events. "It's just about staying on top of the moving parts. With the dinners, it's the ongoing details: different guest chefs, guest hosts, and locations."

Since her very first Dinner Party Project in August of 2014, Dana's dream of hosting dinner parties for a living has grown from a word-of-mouth, Instagram-driven secret to a city-wide venture in which she builds connections throughout the community. With a proverbial hat holding over 750 names and a successful pilot dinner in Nashville under her belt, now is the perfect time to add your name to the list.

Don't miss Dana's French-themed Bastille Day Dinner on July 11th, a fundraising dinner for the Audubon Park Garden District. 

Words by Alex Lenhoff. Photos by Tina Craig.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Weekend Preview: June 25th - 28th, 2015

Before 50 Shades the only whip that mattered was Indie's.
Weekend Events

If you enjoy beer (and if you don't, please leave your American flag and bald eagle at the door on your way out), you've more than likely enjoyed Florida's obsession with Cigar City Brewing. Well, indulge your liver with Barley and Vine Biergarten's Cigar City All-Tap Takeover! starting Thursday at 5:00pm and running through the whole weekend.

Break out your favorite Siouxsie and the Banshees ripped t-shirt and get your DIY punk on this weekend at the Orlando 'Zine Fest 2015 where you will learn how to screen print, make buttons, and browsing through dozens of artists' works. With live music and great vendors, this will definitely make up for the weather. Runs from Friday to Saturday, 4:00-11:00pm; free but donations encouraged.

Thursday, June 25th

Clock & Dapper is inviting you to relive your childhood as you settle in for their Summer Parlor Movie Series - Raiders of the Lost Ark. It will be an old fashioned Movie Night featuring fresh popcorn, cocktails, wine, beer, etc. with 25 actual seats and room on the floor for blankets and pillows--which really is the way old school movies should be watched. Keep your cell phones off, but come willing to yell your favorites lines from the movie. ("Snakes. Why'd it have to be snakes!") BYOBlankets and Pillows, 7:00pm, $20 pre-sale tickets which covers all the popcorn and fancy booze.

Friday, June 26th

If you want to keep up with the '80s archaeology movie theme, The Garden Theater in Winter Garden is showing Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade with trivia beforehand starting at 6:30pm, $6.

Come rain or shine (more than likely rain) CRITICAL BLAST JUNE! 2nd Annual Memorial Mass Ride will be happening to honor all those who are no longer around to join in the ride. There's bound to be a lot of love at this ride and there's also rumor of a raffle happening just before the ride. 5:30pm at Loch Haven Park, ride starts at 6:00pm sharp.

Saturday, June 27th

After you enjoy sleeping in, bike over to Snap! Gallery as they present SNAP! BOOK DAY, and have some coffee and mimosas while you browse limited edition European periodicals, art/photography books, magazines, and art guides. Since there are some rare pieces, this is an event limited to those 14-years of age and older. 11:00am - 4:00pm, free.

It seems there are babies everywhere recently, especially around Redlight Redlight (congrats Brent & Erica). Well, they are now hosting the long-awaited Book Release Celebration - Holic & Hinton for two authors/new dads who have had to put off celebrating being published to take care of twins (so that's four babies altogether, whew!) who now want to show off their literature and grab a beer with their fellow Orlandoans. This is where you come in: go hang out, have a drink with them, and check out their books. There will be cupcakes and in the event of babysitters cancelling on them, there will be babies everywhere (don't buy them drinks); 7:00pm.

Sunday, June 28th

You know what we haven't done recently? Uncontrollably ugly-cry in public. Well, here's the opportunity to for just $5 at the Enzian with the Family Matinee Movie: All Dogs Go to Heaven. Get there early for seats off to the corner so you don't disturb the kids with your emotional breakdown. Starts at noon.

What are you up to this weekend? Leave a comment below!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weekend Preview: June 18th - 21st, 2015

Weekend Events

This is gearing up to be the best Father's Day weekend Orlando has seen in a while!

Start off by titillating your funny bone (there's a joke there somewhere) with the Skill Focus: Burlesque presents Adventures in Adult Animation! happening this weekend. You'll never look at Peter Griffin the same way after these shows; $12-20, 9:00pm.

Thursday, June 18th

Get the dad in your life in spiffy shape with the next two events:

A universal sentiment. (Love ya dad!)
Dapper Your Dad - Father's Day Kickoff Event: Cocktails & Cuts will hopefully help with fashion sense beyond the standard cargo shorts ("there's a pocket for everything!") and Hawaiian shirts he's been rocking lately and get his hair nice and trimmed up for the weekend. You could even win a $20 gift card if you send in a cool picture of your dad rocking those short shorts, Van Halen concert tee, and 'stache from the '70s you found in the photo album no one has looked at in years; 6:00 to- 9:00pm, free.

Nearby there will also be The 2nd Annual Milk District Man Cave, where you can get a hot shave, or some beard oil for those that shy away from the blade, as well as checking out the vintage motorcycles, the massive record sale, and entering various raffle contests to win things like concert tickets or a free tattoo ("no dad, it's not just for sailors and convicts anymore"); 7:00 to 10:00pm, free.

While the weekend isn't here just yet, you can still pretend it's Friday by attending Third Thursday Orlando that includes several event options like Orlando’s Gallery Hop, Tech Meetup, and Business Networking events! Various locations.

Friday, June 19th

Speaking of something old (haha, kidding dad) St. Augustine at 450: A Crealdé Documentary Project celebrates the 450th birthday of the oldest city in the U.S. with a collection of photographs from 10 different photographers. 7:00pm, free.

Get out of the heat of the summer and head over to Winter Garden's Garden Theater to watch one of our favorites from their Summer Series: The Big Lebowski. It's reserved seating so get your tickets ahead of time, after all "this is not 'Nam, this is bowling. There are rules!" 7:00pm, $6.

If you're into something a little more intellectual, put your reading glasses on and enjoy Wine & Sign Fridays: Discover Florida with Jason Ferguson at BookMarkIt at the East End Market. The month of June features all Florida authors and goes from 6:00 to 8:00pm.

Saturday, June 20th

From the minds that brought you Nerd Nite Orlando comes Nerdy Speed Dating! If  you're looking for love of the 8-bit variety, RSVP immediately to get a seat and join others in fun and awkward conversation fueled by beer and geeky drink specials. There is a rumor of a dance party happening at the end, so it's sure to be a fun time! 7:00pm, $5.

Celebrate the sunshine at Caribbean American Heritage Month Festival and enjoy some traditional food from the various islands as well as a tent where you can try the different Caribbean beers. With cultural performances happening all day, you'll want to bring along a hat and sunscreen! Noon to 8:00pm, free

If you haven't boycotted Game of Thrones in the last week (don't worry, no spoilers), then head over to The Falcon Bar for their Game of Thrones Art Show: "Winter is Here" to enjoy some great local art, craft beer, and basically to join what we assume will end up being one giant emotional support group; 8:00pm.

Sunday, June 21st

Feed your dad's mind and body with a free beer and an '80s classic movie at The Enzian with its showing of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. $10, 1:00pm.

Tired of the lame dad jokes you deal with all year long? Let the comedians at SAK Comedy Lab: Father's Day Show inject some real humor into your Sunday with their noon and 2:00pm shows where dads get in free. Non-dads pay $15, and shows sell out to get your tickets asap!

What are you up to this weekend? Leave a comment below!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Orlando Weekend Preview: June 11th - 14th, 2015

Photo by: Ricardo Williams, Nerd Nite Guru
Weekend Events

The Central Florida Community Arts Symphony Orchestra is putting on their most creative and colorful concert so far this weekend for two days only: COLORS, running on Friday and Saturday starting at 8:00pm, where you will experience creative lighting, projection, and visual art that inspire symphonic masterpieces and leave you breathless! $10 for general admission, 12 and under are free.

This weekend you'll be able to enjoy various art pieces and performances at AGENCIES Spring Art Show that will critically examine a range of topics (race, class, religion, sex, gender, etc.) within the scope of  women’s experiences in the South. We hope it will inspire some dialogue so be sure to take your friends. Suggested donation of $5-7 at the door.

Thursday, June 11th

"Where have you hidden my pants!?"
For those of you who are doing a facepalm at the casting choices of the newest Batman movie (did we learn nothing from the Daredevil movie??), relive the golden years at Popcorn Flicks in the Park: Batman, where 1989 Michael Keaton reminds us why we have a weird leather fetish now, and Jack Nicholson somehow made a smile scary. Starts at 8:00pm, but get there ahead of time for a good spot and don't forget your blanket, snacks, and booze!

For those that have always enjoyed the monthly Nerd Nite, make it a point to come out and see the new venue that's hosting this event, The Geek Easy! Nerd Nite Orlando XXVIII starts at 7:00pm and is free, although we encourage you to support them by buying a Nerd Nite shirt available at the event. The bar not only offers great craft beer, but also some pretty sweet food ("gimme some of your tots").

Friday, June 12th

While you can get a fancy bev+ticket package for $25, you can also get just the ticket and hop on the June Conductor Crawl: Hello Summer! Take an umbrella (because Florida) and join other Orlandoans hopping from stop to stop, drinking your way to forgetting the last week of work. Meet at Ceviche Tapas Orlando at 6:00pm sharp, goes until 10:00pm.

If you want to stay dry and be more civic-minded, join other Orlandoans at the State of the County 2015, where Mayor Teresa Jacobs will talk about our vital modeling, simulation and training sector, thriving biotechnology and life-science research hub, cutting-edge film and digital media training facilities, and transformational arts and cultural venues. Free to attend, but pre-register ASAP so they have a head-count! Plus, you get to check out the gorgeous Dr. Phillip's Performing Arts Center. 9:00pm.

Look, I'm going to level with you: I have no clue what this event is, but it's called Can't be a Sad Boy Forever and it's only $5 at Spacebar starting at 10:00pm. It's probably just DJs spinning hip tunes, but we are still holding onto hope that it's actually a weird drunken therapy session for emo kids.

Saturday, June 13th

Celebrate the Grand Opening of Gods & Monsters at Artegon from 10:00am to 10:00pm. This comics, toys, collectibles, and gaming venue will entertain you with arcade games, cosplay models, body art, free comics, a Victorian horror troupe, aerial arts, art show, and more. They will even have a silent auction to benefit The Hero Initiative, so it's for a good cause.

You know what my liver needs right now? A detox. But he's not the boss of me, so onward with plans to attend Rogue Pub's 2nd Annual New Belgium Brewing Bike Fest/Slow Ride Edition. The event starts at 2:00pm at Kyle's Bike Shop where you'll slow ride it up to the pub and have a chance to win some bike goodies, enjoy beer specials, live music, and there will even be some friendly competitions. Free to ride, but you gotta pay for the beer (duh).

Sunday, June 14th

Forget yoga this weekend: what gets our chakras in alignment is watching the Orlando Psycho City Derby Girls crush their opponents physically and possibly emotionally. Catch their second home game of the season at 4:30pm at the Semoran Skateway. Bring your own folding chairs for up-close track side seating, and bring cash because they'll have a 50/50 raffle and food/beer for purchase during the event. $10 at the door.

Hey Romeo, you literally just met her. Chill bro.
Once you get your brunch, Derby, and day-drinking out of the way, why not get your Monday morning started off on the wrong foot by taking part in ShakesBeer: the Romeo & Juliet Drinking Game at The Thirsty Topher. Starting at 9:00pm (but get there a little early to snag a good seat and order your drinks) the performers from the Orlando Shakes will reprise a hilarious and abridged story of Romeo & Juliet where the audience drinks whenever certain things happen (they say "hands" or Romeo overacts, or Juliet's handmaiden is bitchy). Expect Romeo to curse and some awkward kissing (which, when coupled with drinking, can only lead to a good time). Free, although you'll go through around 2-3 beers.

What are you up to this weekend? Leave a comment below!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Orlando Weekend Preview: June 4th - 7th, 2015

June First Friday: Local Love at Macbeth Photo
Weekend Events

Happy Decadeaversary to an Orlando institution! Redlight Redlight is celebrating its 10th Anniversary Week by having throwback pricing on beers, old posters from when they were in their first location (no, not Bennett Rd--what kind of hipster ARE you?!), and special beers being tapped all week long, including vintage kegs, brewery collaborations, and rare beers you'll brag about for months to come.

Speaking of things that will leave you happy and hungover, this weekend is Gay Days Orlando! From daytime theme parks (don't forget to wear red) to nighttime theme parties (don't forget to wear... nothing?), the official events calendar will have something for everyone.

Thursday, June 4th

Want to start the weekend (no one actually gets work done on Fridays, right?) by feeling healthy, fabulous, and charitable all at once? Then join Warrior Power Yoga from 6:00 to 7:00pm for an hour-long spin class, Rainbow Ride, to benefit the Zebra Coalition and The Center. There is no set suggested donation, but we hope you give generously!

Friday, June 5th
Sticking with the charitable theme, Macbeth Photography has teamed up with the Rethink Homelessness campaign to bring you a unique First Friday: Local Love photoshoot event. Held at Canvs downtown instead of the usual location, make sure you snag a picture highlighting your 'hood on the amazing backdrop created by local artist Nathan Selikoff along with Hillery and Morgan from Macbeth Photo. $20 gets you a quick photo session and a digital picture to share with the world. Runs from 3:00 to 9:00pm, no appointment needed.

Just when you were recovering from Fringe Fest and not being entirely sure of what's real and which way is up, why not push your boundaries a little further with The Internet Is Where Everyone Is Wrong. We are still not totally sure what is it, but you're guaranteed a weird, interactive, artsy fun time. Starts at 10:00pm, free (or so it seems, we don't know what to believe anymore).

Saturday, June 6th

This Saturday is packed! Start with the Etsy Craft Party & Fair that runs from 10:00am to 4:00pm and features local crafts, a crafty workshop, raffle prizes, and more!

After lunch, head over to Smashington 2015 Interactive Art & Music Festival that will feature over 70 acts of music, art, and everything in between. There will also be local vendors and activities and food trucks. $15 if you buy pre-sale online, 2:00-8:00pm.

If the Stardust Video & Coffee gallery was a human, they would finally be able to drive. Celebrate 16 years of showcasing all the craziness Orlandoans have to offer in art form by attending their celebration The Originals where they bring back some of the original artists from yesteryear and finally reveal a name for their gallery. There will also be cheese, so there's that; 7:00-11:30pm.

Called the “adult swim” of the science variety, Science Night Live at the Orlando Science Center is strictly 21-and-up with tons of interactive exhibits, trivia, laser light shows, craft beer seminars, and even a presentation about mummies. $15, 8:00-11:00pm.

Re-live your disenfranchised '80s youth (or what your parents have told you it was like) by throwing on some pajamas and cuddling up to your princess, criminal, basket case, brain, or jock to watch The Breakfast Club at The Abbey. They'll provide the snacks and booze, you just need to show up in your bedtime best. Doors at 7:00pm, movie at 8:30pm, $8.

Sunday, June 7th

If you don't sleep in too much, join Fleet Farming's Swarm Ride from 9:00 to 11:30am learning all the ins-and-outs of urban farming and making your city more beautiful.

If you're hungover from watching the princess and the jock flirt on screen from the night before, shake it off T-Swift style with a little Yoga at Lake Eola before wandering over to have a few mimosas in Thornton Park.

What are you up to this weekend? Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Chef-Driven, Locally Delivered: An Interview with Farm-Haus

Brittany and Patrick Lyne, Co-Founders of Farm-Haus
An idea that began as a way to connect local farmers to consumers eventually became Farm-Haus, a new and growing service in Orlando that delivers locally sourced, wholesomely prepared meals. The chef-driven team currently offers weeknight dinners (Mondays through Thursdays) for pick-up or delivery in Baldwin Park, Audubon Park, Mills50, and Colonialtown. Starting this month, the Farm-Haus radius is expanding to include all of Downtown Orlando and all of Winter Park. We caught up with Farm-Haus Co-founder Brittany Lyne to talk business, local love, and the perfect meal. 

Farm-Haus Chef, Julian De Garden
Brittany, who with husband Patrick Lyne co-founded Farm-Haus in 2014, credits two factors with driving the local food scene and making Orlandoans embrace a healthy delivery service: "One, we're all really busy, and two, as a whole, Americans are starting to understand and become more aware of what they're eating and where it's coming from. In addition, we like to say that the best diet for Americans is one where everyone cooks their own food. However, we know that that's not very realistic, so it's our goal to be the closest option to that, while being super convenient at the same time." This simple but much-needed idea came from a scenario most of us know well. "Patrick and I were both busy professionals, with not a lot of timeor energy by the end of the dayto make the meals that we wanted to eat."

The response to Farm-Haus has been great so far and the growing team reflects that. "Right now, we're super pumped about the latest addition to our team, Chef Julian De Garden. He recently graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and brings so much talent and a fresh, unique perspective with him." You might know his work from restaurants such as Dandelion Cafe, The Ravenous Pig, and, most recently, as Sous Chef for The Smiling Bison, where he played an integral role in menu creation. "In addition, we'll be bringing some additional chefs in to do 'guest meals,' which we're excited about."

So, what makes up a great food experience? "The perfect meal, to us, in one that is extremely fresh, seasonal and interesting—something that is borderline art with the creativity that is used to present the ingredients," says Brittany. But it's not just about what's on the plate: "What really makes a meal perfect is who you share it with. That's where the real magic is. The same is true for the perfect dinner party: a dinner that brings people together from all walks of life over great food and to, for one night, forget everything that is happening in their lives, and to just enjoy good food, good company, and that moment."

On setting up shop in Orlando, Brittany says it was an easy decision. "There's an air of positive energy running through the city, one of change and amazing things on the horizon—who wouldn't want to be a part of making those amazing things happen?" Connecting with the local community has always been a priority for the Farm-Haus team. "My favorite thing about Orlando is the people. The people are what make this city so easy to love. We've been a part of the Dinner Party Project since it first started last year, and one of our favorite parts of hosting it is getting to meet so many interesting people here locally. There are A LOT of people doing really amazing things. It just takes getting outside of ourselves for a moment to see that sometimes."

For the future, Brittany sees Orlando's food and art culture continue to expand. "However, in order to do that, we need to be willing to explore and support what's already available to us, and as a city, continue to provide opportunities for business owners, creators, and artists to stay and establish themselves here."

Lightning Round: Local Spots and How to Cook

  • Favorite local places to hang out: East End, Propagation, Credo, Barnies, the Enzian.
  • Favorite local products: Lineage coffee, Cloak & Dapper, and Lure Paper Goods ("I recently discovered Lure at a Yelp event we did with them and am in love with their witty and creative style. It's refreshing.")
  • Southern dish: "My (Brittany's) favorite Southern dish would have to be either shrimp and grits or a good she crab soup (especially when visiting Charleston!). Being from Texas, Patrick is all about chicken fried steak, especially when prepared by our friend Kent Rollins (aka, the Cowboy Chef!)."
  • Best song while cooking: Right now: Brittany—Anything Haim, Patrick—Anything Kendrick Lamar
  • Best place in Orlando for a picnic: Kraft Azalea Garden
  • Best Florida produce/product people should try: Anything from Frog Song Organics
  • Thing you're most excited about in Orlando right now: The Juice bike share program...and everything Buddy Dyer.

You can stay in touch with Farm-Haus on their website (where you can order a meal for yourself or gift one to a friend), Facebook, and Instagram. Also, don't miss their very first community dinner, Farm-Haus Pop-Up: Summer Feast, happening at East End Market on June 11th.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Orlando Weekend Preview: May 29th - 31st, 2015

DarkMatter: Anomaly, Photo by Bonnie Stanley
Friday, May 29th

The Dinner Party Project presents Food + Drink + Film, a free potluck dinner at The Lodge, this Friday at 6:30pm. Sign up to bring a dish and get ready for Jurassic Park. Cocktails and beer available for purchase. 

Twelve21 Gallery invites you to the opening reception of Kenji Nakayama's cheeky The Quick Brown Fox exhibit, this Friday from 6:00 to 9:00pm; free. 

Snap! Orlando presents Father Figure, one of the last events of this month's YOU ARE HERE series. The exhibit opens this Friday at 8:00pm at the Hannibal Square Heritage Center. 

Movieola is back this weekend with a free outdoor showing of Brave at Lake Eola. BYOBlanket; food available for purchase; event begins at 6:00pm with a movie start time of 8:00pm. 

The Social presents a soulful evening with Kaleigh Baker, Jonnie Morgan Band, The Groove Orient, and Liquid Spiral, this Friday at 8:00pm; tickets are $10. 

Saturday, May 30th

DarkMatter: Anomaly reminds me of something Stefon from SNL might recommend: pay $20 and find out the day of when and where this black-light, body-painting, trance party / art exhibit takes place. Food and drinks are included, LSD is not.

All of your favorite Orlando makers are getting together at the Spring into Summer Pop Up Shop this Saturday from noon to 4:00pm at West Elm.

Stretching the cultures of southern and southeastern Asia, the Asian Cultural Festival is happening this Saturday from 11:00am to 4:00pm at Fashion Square Mall. This free event includes entertainment, arts, and food for purchase.

This quarter's Functionally Literate reading series features readings and book signings by Shane Hinton (who is celebrating the release of his new book Pinkies), author Jeff Parker, and poet Erica Dawson. What's a reading series and why is it traveling the state? Check out our interview! The event is at 1300 Brookhaven (7:00pm) with an after-party at Lil Indies. 

Sunday, May 31st

End your weekend at the Orlando Farmers Market from 10:00am to 4:00pm. Not-hungover people can also enjoy Yoga in Lake Eola Park at 11:00am. 

What are you up to this weekend? Leave a comment below!